Two police officers went to the home of Mary Anne Sause in Louisburg, Kansas, 40 miles south of Kansas City, to investigate a noise complaint. Sause eventually invited them inside. Sause mentioned the Constitution and Bill of Rights, for which the officers mocked her. One officer told Sause that she “was going to jail” despite not knowing why. Sause, frightened, was then was given permission to kneel and pray. She was subsequently ordered by the officers to stop praying and stand up. The officers then mocked her again before they flipped through a booklet (presumably looking for something with which to criminally charge her) and eventually charged Sause with disorderly conduct and interfering with law enforcement.
Sause sued the officers, alleging that they had violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her to stop praying. Although the Court agreed with Sause’s generally articulated rights, the Court granted the police officers qualified immunity. Here’s what that means. No previously decided cases were similar to Sause’s, meaning that Sause’s First Amendment rights were not clearly established. Thus, a reasonable police officer would not have known that his or her actions were clearly unlawful. Therefore, the Court refused to hold the police officers liable for their conduct.
Case: Sause v. Bauer, No. 16-3231 (10th Cir. June 20, 2017) (opinion here)